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Love and Its Meaning

What does it mean to love?

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider how we describe love.

Preparation and materials

  • If possible, have available the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney to show the children.

    Alternatively, have available an image of the book’s cover and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at:

  • You will also need the poem ‘A red, red rose’ by Robert Burns:

    - a copy of the poem is available at:
    - a recording of the poem set to music is available at: (it is 4.53 minutes long)

  • Have available the following words: ‘I asked Jesus, “How much do you love me?” And Jesus said, This much.” Then he stretched out his hands and died.’


  1. Show the children the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney or the image of the book’s cover.

    Point out that, over 20 years ago, Sam McBratney wrote an enchanting children’s book called Guess How Much I Love You. The book is beautifully illustrated by Anita Jeram and tells the story of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. It is a charming board book for grown-ups to read to their little ones. Since its publication, more than 28 million copies have been sold and the book has been translated into 53 languages.

  2. Ask the children if they have ever heard the saying, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’ Explain that the saying comes from this book.

    If the book is available, read it to the children.

  3. Explain that ‘I love you to the moon and back’ means I love you more than anything or anyone else’.

    The moon is 238,900 miles away from Earth, so the claim is that I love you 477,800 miles! The average distance travelled by four-wheeled vehicles per year is about 8,000 miles, so the distance to the moon and back is the equivalent of 60 years in car miles!

  4. Tell the children that people have been loving people for many thousands of years. Ask the question, How do you think people would have described their love over 220 years ago?

    Listen to a range of responses.

  5. People might have used the moon to describe their love then, too, because the moon would still have been there back then. However, just over 220 years ago, a Scottish poet called Robert Burns used the idea of a red rose to describe his love.

    Read the poem ‘A red, red rose’ by Robert Burns, or play the recording of it set to music.

  6. The words of the poem ‘A red, red rose’ may sound old-fashioned. In one verse, it says, ‘And I will luve thee still, my dear,/Till a’ the seas gang dry.’

    Ask the children what they think these words mean.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  7. Love is not about how often we say the words ‘I love you’ or how we describe the vastness of our love. Instead, it is about how our actions show that we love someone.

  8. Grown-ups reading Guess How Much I Love You to their child will hopefully be reinforcing the message of the book with loving actions. They might cuddle their child, make sure that their child is well-fed and warmly clothed, shelter their child from dangers and teach their child to be truthful, hardworking and caring towards others.

Time for reflection

There is no doubt that we were made to love and be loved, but the kind of love that we are all seeking is an unconditional love. However, the kind of love that we often find is conditional.

Conditional love says:

- I will love you as long as you remain beautiful
- I will love you as long as you look after me
- I will love you as long as you agree with me
- I will love you as long as you want to be only with me
- I will love you as long as you do well at school, go to university and get a good career

Unconditional love says:

- I will always love you and accept you, just as you are.
- I will love you when you are good and when you are bad
- I will love you when you are faithful and when you are unfaithful
- I will love you 
when you are young and beautiful and when you are old and wrinkled
- I will always love you, 
no matter what

Our challenge is to love with an unconditional love.

Christians believe that the greatest love story ever told is the story of God’s love for each of us. They believe that God loves us so unconditionally that he sent Jesus to show this love.

Optional: you may wish to ask the children to reflect on the following words: ‘I asked Jesus, “How much do you love me?” And Jesus said, This much.” Then he stretched out his hands and died.’

Dear God,
Thank you for love.
Thank you for how good it is to have people who love us, and people whom we can love.
Thank you that your heart is full of love for us and for all those we love.

Publication date: February 2018   (Vol.20 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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